KYSO Flash
Knock-Your-Socks-Off Art and Literature
Issue 3: Spring 2015
Haibun: 235 words [R]


by Peter Butler

My mother wears black stockings, seams as straight as tram lines, as she stretches across the window, seeking his silhouette. Five hours and the last bus gone, but still she waits in the cateyed darkness of the small hours.

around the church
flags hang limply—
tired, perhaps

The second night, rucksack-borne, he strides back to suburbia from Burma and battles via stretcher, ship, ambulance and ward, finally by foot. “Hallo, it’s me,” he suggests unnecessarily, after three years.

Later he gives me annas, coins quite useless at the Corner Shop, calls me “son” which seems odd, seems shrunken, smaller than the photo. Then gives me other money, some I can spend. I do not sleep, but tape the blanket walls, listen to a cocktail of half-formed endearments, fumblings, an orchestra of bedsprings. Later, I hear him calling, it’s over now, all over.

Next morning a nervous sun lights up his Burma Star and other ribboned metal, spread among the jam and cornflakes, and he asks superficial questions like how is school and can I ride a bike, then tumbles out the names of those he’s left with the War who will not be returning, at which point he start to cry.

I try hard to recognise my father, aware with curiosity and trepidation there are now three of us. Outside, black stockings air upon the line.

in the park
boys find
a fresh bullet

—From the haibun collection A Piece of Shrapnel (Hub Editions, 2013); republished here by author’s permission

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